Thursday, Jul 18, 2002
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By Kamesh Srinivasan
The trap coach from Italy, who has been associated with the Indian team for many years, at times even assisting the double trap and skeet marksmen, had been cleared by the government for the Commonwealth Games. However, the NRAI has asked him not to join the Indian team in Bisley.
Dradi may have paid the price for speaking his mind about the selection criteria being suddenly sprung on the trap shooters, and the best being kept away when striking the best form.
Obviously, Dradi was not too pleased about the omission of Mansher Singh, the champion shooter who had beaten Ian Peel, the Olympic silver medallist, to the gold in the Commonwealth championship in his own backyard in Bisley last year. More than thriving on his reputation as a world-class shooter, Mansher had started touching his wonted form.
Dradi had also commented that some shooters had started the unhealthy practice of fighting their way into the team by running to the minister, which may have irked the NRAI president, Mr Digvijay Singh, a minister with the Union Government.
It may be a simple matter of the NRAI not wanting a coach just for two shooters, in a big contingent. It may also be trying to fit in a replacement in the squad, as two of the proposed Indian officials had been shot down from the list by the government.
In the first place, selecting the teams on the basis of the performance of the shooters in the trials was not exactly a wise idea. There have been a few other shooters who have not been selected because of this method.
Ronak Pandit, who took the golden badge at the age of 16 last year, was found good enough to compete in the World championship here in the junior section, but not good enough to represent the men in the Commonwealth Games, despite being the current national champion in rapid-fire pistol event.
Poonam Kumar who got the individual silver medal in the rapid-fire pistol event in the last Commonwealth championship does not find a place in the current team.
Harinder Singh Bedi who shot a world class 99 out of 100 for the gold badge in skeet in the same championship, did not get the nod, though it is another matter that the skeet shooters have not got the clearance from the government.
Actually, the Indian skeet team was agonisingly close to a medal. It shot the score of the bronze medallists, but lost it on the count back system of tie-break.
Incidentally, Dradi was in charge of the skeet shooters also then, and cried, by his own admission, that night for missing the medal, and took the blame on himself.
Arjuna award winner Shilpi Singh who shot the individual silver in women's air pistol and is also the current national champion has been sidelined this year on grounds of discipline, and is expected to be brought back for the Asian Games.
Some of the other shooters like Anuja Tere who missed the silver with a bad last shot in air rifle, and Saroja Kumari, who won the team silver in sport pistol with Sushma Rana, may have been overtaken by better shooters.
Arti Singh, the woman skeet shooter who won the bronze badge and also made the prestigious World Cup finals on the basis of her fourth place last year in the World Cup in Lonato, Italy has been dropped by the government from the clearance list.
In all, the notes struck by the NRAI and the government have not been healthy, and the results may show.
Having failed to renew the services of the rifle coach Laszlo Szucsak after the Olympics, and having failed to find a replacement for him for the last two years, the NRAI may be treading on similar loose sand in the case of Marcello Dradi.
Tibor Gonczol, the pistol coach, is the only professional left in the team now, to guide the fortunes of the talented lot.
The World championship has thoroughly exposed the inadequacies of the Indian squad rather glaringly, and the fact remains that we are taking two steps backward for every step forward.
The government has spent many crores on the Indian shooters in recent times, and if the NRAI has not been able to get the coaches, ammunition etc., it has to blame its own inability, to a great extent, to convince the authorities on such matters.
As the president of the NRAI, and also the chairman of the selection committee, Mr Digvijay Singh has got his priorities mixed up.
In showing the door to Dradi, a man who loves Indian shooters with all his heart and has been fair to them, the NRAI has sent the wrong signals.
To hell with professionalism in sports, let us play politics. We are good at it.
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